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Funnel defense report: Week 7 defenses with ample pass opportunity

SANTA CLARA, CA - MAY 5: Solomon Thomas of the San Francisco 49ers goes through drills during the teams rookie camp at the 49ers training facility at Levi Stadium on May 05, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

Welcome to the Week 7 Funnel Defense Report, where we examine trends in how defenses are most commonly attacked. It is meant to help narrow our focus from overall game selection, down to the “run versus pass” level. We as fantasy gamers, like NFL game planners, ideally seek paths of least resistance.

The term “funnel defense,” or “pass funnel defense” was coined several years ago by the esteemed Adam Levitan. It has become common parlance among DFS players and other fantasy aficionados, and refers to defenses which are simultaneously soft against the pass and stout against the run.

Identifying such characteristics is not a one-time task, as injury and performance variation create an evolving landscape. In this space we will leverage, among other resources, up-to-date PFF defensive grades and metrics to stay on top of these constant changes and difference-making fantasy trends.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers again functioned as a pass funnel in Washington, holding Redskins running backs to 58 yards on 27 carries (2.1 average) while getting sliced up by Kirk Cousins for 330 passing yards (8.9 average). Their run defense is allowing the fifth-fewest yards per carry on the year, while the league’s worst-graded pass coverage is allowing the sixth-highest yards per attempt (7.4). Losing Arik Armstead, our 19th-highest-graded run-stopper among 59 qualifying 4-3 defensive ends, will hurt – but rookie first-rounder Solomon Thomas has been coming on of late to help pick up the slack.

Week 7: The Cowboys and a momentarily free Ezekiel Elliott (Frezekiel?) will test the 49ers’ front-seven. Their 20th-graded run-blocking hasn’t been its daunting self this season, however, and Elliott is seeing only 0.8 yards before first contact instead of the 2.2 he enjoyed last year. Dallas wants to hand off, as evidenced by a 45.8 percent situation-neutral run rate (ninth-highest), but their real run rate (41.7-percent; 17th-highest) shows a willingness to put things on Dak Prescott’s shoulders. If DFS ownership skews toward Elliott, as expected, riding Prescott and Dez Bryant into the pass funnel will be a fun ride.


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